Singin’ In The Rain

The best theatre is about magic: making the impossible happen. Sound Idea’s production of Singin’ In The Rain does just that and if you’re in the front two rows you’re likely to get quite wet too.

The iconic rain dance made famous by Gene Kelly comes gloriously to life on the Playhouse stage, with a downpour that covers the deck and splashes out into the auditorium.

Even on its own that’s enough to make you smile, but there are some quality performances here too.

Supposedly a supporting role, Nic Gordon’s Cosmo stands out thanks to his confidence, stage craft and sheer, obvious, delight at performing.

His slapstick in Make ‘Em Laugh and Moses Supposes is first rate, and just needs the ensemble to keep up.

Meg Artherton’s is deliciously despicable as the whining, screechy-voiced Lina Lamont, stomping and shrieking like a perfect diva, and her screen co-star Don Lockwood is lent an affable air by Chris Davidson.

He throws himself in to the tap, dance, and song with equal enthusiasm and talent. He can’t quite match Gene Kelly with an umbrella, but there’s no shame there.

The main quartet is rounded off by the wholesome wannabee actress Kathy Selden; Katrice Copland has a pure tone to her voice, slips effortlessly into the complicated choreography, and has good synchronicity with Davidson and Gordon.

There are some great cameo roles: Tom Davies excels as the excitable studio boss, Joseph Betts adds some sparkling ad-libs as film director Roscoe Dexter, and Martin Smith’s tap-dancing vocal coach is an absolute triumph.

The ensemble felt a little uncertain on opening night with too much hesitation and a lack of fluidity in some of the dance numbers, but nothing not fixable as the run matures. The same goes for a few technical hitches with misplaced set dressing and uncooperative sliding doors.

The important thing is that this young Norfolk company have aimed high, and Dan Smith’s artistic vision has created a show shot through with a sense of fun and enjoyment.

Easily worth getting a little wet for.

Top Hat

Mistaken identity, love, and mad dashes across Europe – Top Hat is a frothy, fun journey that features some of Irving Berlin’s finest tunes and sharpest lyrics.

Norfolk & Norwich Operatic Society’s production of this film adaptation has a mass of talent on stage. Alex Green as leading man is going to be left with very sore feet by the end of the run: he taps, dances, and sings his way through the show with unbounded energy.

Female lead Kathryn White is in great voice and holds a perfect line throughout, flexing between wit and vulnerability as her character’s fortunes shift. Together the two are captivatingly cinematic as they glide through Cheek to Cheek and Let’s Face The Music.

Adrian Wright is a comic star as valet Bates, with great support too from Ian Chisholm, Linda Campbell, and Christopher Penn. The ensemble lack discipline in some early sequences, but deliver a barnstorming all-tap version of Top Hat, White Tie and Tails that could pass muster in the West End.

Some minor technical trips on the first night were not enough to detract from the triumph of such a big show; I take my hat off to them.

City of Angels

The shady world of the film noir thriller and a killer score combine for this latest production from Threshold Theatre Company.

City of Angels weaves together the story of aspiring screenwriter Stine with that of Stone, his on-screen gumshoe alter-ego, with the two worlds interacting as the musical progresses through murders, double-crossings and obligatory heartache.

Jon Bennett as Stone is a class act, perfectly poised as the archetypal PI and a neat contrast to the more conflicted author Stine, played by Joseph Betts. Betts voice powers through, particularly in the penultimate number.

Kathryn Jones is perfectly cast as the femme fatale: icy and porcelain on the outside with a simmering heat in her eyes. And the dame’s got lungs too – as has Stephanie Moore in the dual role of Stine’s wife and Stone’s singer ex-squeeze. She is the linchpin of the show, switching effortlessly between modes and showing real vocal prowess.

James Webber as a control freak movie executive and Ian Chisholm as Lt Munoz provide comic relief, with some darkly humorous songs – it’s not often you hear ‘cyanide’ used in a rhyming couplet – and April Nash brings a worldly presence as Stone’s put-upon secretary.

City of Angels is a complex and challenging show technically: combining the real and ‘reel’ worlds, and live and recorded vocals, across 40 scenes. The opening night had some hiccups with sound balance and the shadowy film noir lighting sometimes looked like a missed cue, but these are minor gripes against the overall stylish and accomplished delivery. The 12-piece orchestra, led by Joe Ringer, was tight throughout – especially impressive given their cramped housing on top of the stage.

This is a rare chance to see this steamy, seedy, darkly funny musical, presented by a talented cast and crew.

Anything Goes

With Cole Porter’s sparkling lyrics and music you’re already on a steady course with Anything Goes – but with this production it’s a case of full steam ahead.

A strong cast, headed by Andrea Ferguson as Reno Sweeney, powers through the farcical goings-on aboard the SS American, mixing some of Porter’s finest songs with great dance and charming wit.

Ferguson’s voice is strong and she is an eye-catching presence on stage, working nicely off Andy Gledhill as Billy Crocker. The two have the lion’s share of the vocal work, handling classics like I Get A Kick Out of You, Easy to Love, and – of course – Anything Goes with easy confidence.

There is great comedy from Christopher Penn as bumbling aristocrat Lord Evelyn Oakley and Joseph Betts as Moonface Martin is a joy to watch: brilliant facial expressions and a real talent for physical comedy..

Ian Chisholm’s exuberant Elisha Whitney is a reliable note of humour from start to finish: silly, over the top, and a lot of fun.

Claire Doughty’s vocal talents are under-used as Hope Harcourt but she entrances when she gets the chance..

Perhaps the surprise star of the night was Kathryn Jones, standing in as Erma. Confident, sassy, and singing superbly, nevermind the sailors wanting to marry her – by the end I did! Definitely one to watch for future productions.

The ensemble gave life and depth to the set pieces, with Reno’s Angels performing strongly in the nightclub scene (and the politically incorrect Gypsy In Me revelatory number), and the crew quintet gave a particularly nice turn during Buddy Beware and the opening scene setting medley.

The 10-piece orchestra, neatly positioned on the ‘upper deck’ of the stage gave a consistently sharp backing to the action; no mean feat in a show like this.

There were some technical gripes: some of the scene changes came out slow and the lighting was a touch heavy-handed in places, but nothing that can’t be made ship-shape. Accents waned a little occasionally too, but then anything can happen on a transatlantic crossing.

This is a big show and the Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society have definitely hit on the right course. All aboard!

High Society

This is a swell party all right: and it’s Sophie Bould’s show. As divorcee socialite Tracy Lord, Bould is at the centre of the action and the talented heart of the performance.

She has a soft but powerful voice that glides delightfully over the live orchestra, bringing to life beautifully the heroine of the piece: uptight and acerbic at the start; glitteringly drunken as she mournfully sings It’s All Right With Me towards the show’s denouement.

Michael Praed partners her well as ex-husband Dexter Haven, but he doesn’t quite pull off the debonair charm that the role demands: he has the looks and mostly has the voice, but his starchy blazer suppresses the twinkle a little too much.

Alex Young and Daniel Boys are a charming double-act as the invading paparazzi. Their rendition of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is one of the highlights of the first half. Young’s delectable playfulness shows up later too, this time alongside the exuberant Teddy Kempner as Uncle Willie.

The whole ensemble pulls out the stops in the second half, with the bright and joyous Let’s Misbehave and Well, Did You Evah? winding their way throughout the action, which itself span around Francis O’Connor’s inventive set. This is smart and witty production design that always helps advance the story and never once gets in the way of it.

Michael Haslam’s orchestra and Anna Linstrum’s directions make the most of Cole Porter’s music and lyrics.

You might not leave a millionaire, but you will be a lot richer.